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A picture is worth a thousand words

Dubai - Pushpamala N. weaves tales of myth and fantasy through a series of photography art

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Published: Sat 30 Jan 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 31 Jan 2016, 7:30 AM

Pushpamala N. is a photo and visual artist based in Bangalore, India. She was formally trained as a sculptor and eventually shifted to photography to explore her interest in narrative figuration. Her work has been described as performance photography, as she frequently uses herself as a model in her work. She uses elements of popular culture to explore place, gender and history.
Her upcoming solo exhibition in Dubai features one of her latest works titled, The Arrival of Vasco da Gama (2014), as well as the series Avega: The Passion. 
Avega explores the characters of three women from the epic Ramayana as archetypal figures. Set in a fantasy environment, fateful incidents from the epic are played out on a spectacular stage with fog machines, elaborate painted sets, costume and lighting to create powerful atmospheres. Pushpamala plays with various genres of image-making in her works, resulting in richly layered hybrids with multiple references. Many of the works in the exhibition refer to theatre stills from the early 20th century, while others use early cinema as their models. The artist is always the central protagonist in these dramas and the works function as documents of performances, as critiques of representational constructions, and as oblique self-portraits. 
VENUE: 1X1 Art Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai
DATES AND TIMINGS: Until February 28 from 11am till 7pm, Saturday to Thursday. 

 The arrival of VASCO DA GAMA (after an 1898 oil painting by Jose Veloso Salgado)
The Arrival of Vasco da Gama (2014) is a photographic recreation that deconstructs an 1898 orientalist 'history' painting by Portuguese painter Jose Veloso Salgado - Vasco da Gama perante o Samorim - that depicts Vasco da Gama's first meeting with the Zamorin of Calicut. Having discovered a direct sea route to India from Europe, Gama disembarked on the shores of Calicut in May 1498. His meeting with the Zamorin to tackle trading privileges was unsuccessful as the ruler was unimpressed by the goods Gama brought and refused to conclude a trading pact with him.
Created 400 years after the actual event, the painting celebrates Gama's arrival in Calicut. It depicts him addressing the Zamorin's court; a nobly attired European visitor surrounded by the imagined decadence of an oriental court. The setting reflects Western Europe's conception, continuing well into the 20th century, of the savagery of medieval non-European societies as those ruled by despotic kings and awaiting Europe's civilising touch.
For The Arrival of Vasco da Gama, Pushpamala plays her first male role as the celebrated navigator, recreating the original painting as a photographic tableau with artist friends as supporting cast. Elements of the painted sets made for the shoot and written texts form an installation like a theatre museum around the photograph. The artist turns Salgado's conception on its head returning what is a work of imagination, which has over time gained a degree of historical legitimacy, to the space of fiction and masquerade.

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